PIIN President John Welch was the forum facilitator. (Courier File Photo)

One of the questions raised by Rev. John Welch made during his campaign to unseat Mayor Bill Peduto was that if, as Peduto said, it will take around 14 years to replace all the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority’s lead service lines, why did its board approve a contract for the work in March when the work hasn’t even started?

Beyond his objections to how the city has handled the safety issue with elevated levels of lead in the city’s water, Rev. Welch said the contract represents another instance where the city is leaving Blacks behind because it did not allow for minority-owned firms to participate.

Pittsburgh Councilman Danny Lavelle agreed and said he would be discussing the matter with his fellow Black legislators at the city, county and state level.

“Where is the Black participation,” Lavelle said. “I think we need to look at this closer and see if there is something we can do. It’s the same with the $4 billion in contracts ALCOSAN will be issuing. We have to ensure they realize an economic benefit for Black businesses.”

Will Pickering, spokesman for the PWSA, told the New Pittsburgh Courier it was not an “emergency no-bid contract” issued as some have suggested. Invitations to bid were put out, and the authority accepted the best ones, which just happened to be from outside the city and county.

“This standard competitive process produced bids from nine different contractors, some of which are headquartered in Allegheny County,” he said. “Per PWSA’s procurement policies, the lowest responsive and responsible bidders were selected.”

Pickering said the authority’s Minority-owned Business Enterprise and Women-owned Business Enterprise goals for this type of work are 18 percent MBE, 7 percent WBE.

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